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Maintaining forward progress will be key for local basketball squads

La Canada, Flintridge Prep and St. Francis basketball teams all look to prolong success.

November 21, 2012|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com
  • ARCHIVE PHOTO: La Canada's senior point guard Ryan Lee is one of two returning starters for the Spartans.
ARCHIVE PHOTO: La Canada's senior point guard Ryan… (Tim Berger/Staff…)

La Cañada High, Flintridge Prep and St. Francis’ boys’ basketball teams all have something to build on this season after making the CIF Southern Section playoffs last year.

Flintridge Prep has some unfinished business after a disappointing first-round exit in Division V-AA, while the Spartans (Division III-AA) and Golden Knights (Division III-A) simply have their work cut out for them in rebuilding largely new lineups into contenders.

La Cañada is coming off a second-round playoff run that came on the heels of its third straight Rio Hondo League title, which it shared with South Pasadena. Gone is forward Darrell Dansby, an All-CIF first-team selection and a lockdown defender who led the team in scoring last year, along with six other graduated seniors.

The Spartans do return two starters that will comprise their backcourt in senior point guard Ryan Lee, a three-year starter, and junior Dan Jun, who veteran Spartans Coach Tom Hofman said may be his best all-around player.

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Senior Jack Anderson will look to assume a bigger role in the post after logging light minutes last year and senior Mario Del Cueto will also look to make the jump from complimentary piece to starting wing, although there’s no shortage of competition at that position.

“The wings are competitive right now,” said Hofman, who is also trying to find room on the wings for sophomore sharpshooter Brendan Hempsted and freshman KoKo Kurdoghlian, who is the first freshman varsity player at La Cañada in 11 years. “[Kurdoghlian] has impressed us with his scoring ability and rebounding. That’s something we need this year on this team.”

Senior Aidan Branney will provide size for a team that doesn’t boast a strong post presence. As was its calling card last year, Hofman said the Spartans will need to defend well, especially while the offense gets settled.

“We need to be a really good defensive team,” Hofman said. “We’re kind of an average shooting team right now, but we’re getting better I think and we’re running our offense a lot better than we were a month ago.

“We need to run a little bit more than we did last year and play equally well defensively because we’re going to have some trouble at times scoring.”

Hofman said the top priority is defending the league title, which he hopes will warm the team up for a strong playoff run.

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